By Associated Press - Sunday, September 13, 2020

RANTOUL, Ill. (AP) - A central Illinois community that was facing the impending loss of its iconic Minuteman missile can keep the Cold War relic under a last-minute arrangement with the Air Force.

Three days before the planned dismantling of Rantoul’s first-generation Minuteman missile, Mayor Chuck Smith announced Friday that the Air Force will hand over upkeep of the missile to the village.

After the missile is renovated, it will then be transferred back to the National Museum of the Air Force and loaned to the village, The News-Gazette reported.

The Air Force had previously held that the village would not be allowed to maintain the missile, and it was scheduled to dismantled on Monday. But U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, and an aide were able to convince the Air Force to change its mind.

“It’s the Rantoul rocket. We’ve got to do this,” Shimkus said he told an Air Force colonel, who then began making calls.

The missile was installed at the west entrance of the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, in 1966. It had remained in place after the Air Force closed the base in 1993.

Rantoul VFW Commander Justin Penrod said he was “ecstatic” that the missile won’t be scrapped.

“Now, we’ve just got to move forward and start getting people interested to push for a landmark and see if we can get the federal funding to preserve it. I’m glad they listened to us,” he said.

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